The voice of a multi-cultural band based in Germany, Cymin Samawatie has a lot to be excited about. Her band and their music is currently being featured on Lufthansa's international flights and they have a music tour planned in the coming months in the United States. Coming from such an interesting background and working with similar artists from Germany and India, Cymin has just released a second CD and is taking the world by storm.
I had a chance to talk to her recently:
PersianMirror: Tell us a little about yourself.
Cymin Samawatie: My family descends from Iran but I was born and grew up in Germany. I was raised bilingual and bicultural. My father taught me how to read and write Farsi. Every summer during the holidays we stayed in Teheran for 6 weeks. In 1992 I spent one year of high school in the U.S. and two years later I finished high school in Germany and started studying music. I studied classical music as well as jazz in Hannover and Berlin. Cyminology is the band that I am presently singing in and writing for.
PM: What attracted you to the Arts and how did your family influence your decision?
CS: As far as I can remember I always loved to listen and dance to music, but I also enjoyed making it myself. My father is not a professional musician, but he sang a lot at home and made me sing too. He used to record our voices on tape when we were little. I have records from the time I was about two or three years old. I would sing children’s songs, and in the middle of the song I would transition to my own lyrics and melodies. Maybe I already loved to improvise, or I just forgot the lyrics of the song.
At the age of twelve I started taking piano lessons and one year later I had my first try at leading a choir all by myself. My Hungarian music teacher said she felt I was very gifted. I learned a lot from her and she was the reason that I also wanted to become a music teacher. I studied classical music at a conservatory in Hannover for four years. My major was piano but after two years I switched to drums. During my studies I came into contact with jazz musicians. I started to love and learn jazz standards from Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Horace Silver and many more. I was fascinated by scat singing and enjoyed improvising. After my classical studies I started studying (vocal) jazz and composition at the “Hochschule der Künste” in Berlin in 2000.
In our family I am the only one to pursue the Arts for a living. That might be the reason why it is still not very easy for my parents to see music as my profession. They would be more comfortable seeing me as a teacher of music in school or at a conservatory. They do support me though and understand more and more of my music. And they are very happy and proud that through it I have gotten deeper into the Iranian culture.
PM: Tell us about your first professional singing part and how it felt?
CS: In 1993 I started to work with Ralf Schwarz (our bass player). At that time he played guitar. We composed our own music and I wrote English lyrics. We had our first concert in a small café in Detmold (Germany). Before each song I explained what the song was about and why we wrote it. Most of the lyrics were depressive and I wanted the listeners to understand why I felt that way. I felt that the audience was listening intently and really getting into our music. And afterwards quite a few came to the stage and showed their appreciation for our work. Even the organizer liked our music and gave us money for the performance. It was a great experience and felt really good.
PM: Tell us about your band and the type of music you play.
CS: Cyminology is four musicians, each with their own unique background and history. We love building things together that none of us could build alone. Benedikt Jahnel (our piano player) was born in France and grew up in Bavaria (Germany). Ralf Schwarz (our bass player) is a German and Ketan Bhatti (our drummer) is a native of India but also grew up in a small town in the middle of Germany.
All of us have been influenced by an array of different musicians and music styles. Our compositions show who we are and what we love. Farsi has a very beautiful sound to me and I also love the rich ancient poems of Khayyam, Hafis and Rumi. That is why I love to sing in my mother tongue. My compositions are influenced by so many things that I have a hard time describing it. I believe that you can find some elements from Debussy, Steve Reich or Michio Kitazume but also from Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Bobby McFerrin, Sarah Vaughan, Erykah Badu and many more. Since our line up is known from the jazz tradition and we all improvise, I would say that we play contemporary jazz music.
PM: What is next?
CS: We are thinking about bringing new elements into our program. We’ve met a very interesting light designer and I also have some new ideas for our live performances I’m playing with in my mind..!
PM: How has your Iranian heritage influenced your music? What is your favorite part about Iran and its rich culture?
CS: When I was young my family regularly attended Persian ceremonies. I really enjoyed dancing to the music and I loved singing along with the singers. I don’t know how much this is influencing my music today but I am a German-Iranian woman who was born and raised by Iranian parents in Germany. As I mentioned, my music shows who I am and what I love. I just sing and write what I hear inside of me.
Iran has a very deep culture. I am fascinated from the wise and profound writings. I love the beautiful landscapes and I miss the warmhearted people I met there so long ago. I haven’t been in Iran for more than ten years now. But a favorite side of Iran and its rich culture for me is also the wide range of great food – I’m glad that I can at least buy and cook some of that here in Europe.
PM: Desert Island. Three things. What will you take?
CS: A grand piano, the bible and my husband (and I think he would add: A bass)!
Full Name: Cymin Samawatie
Born In: Braunschweig, Germany
Favorite Color: Yellow
Favorite City: Berlin
Favorite Dish: Khoreschte Ghormesabsi
Languages: German, English, Farsi, some French
Currently Hearing: Wayne Shorter “alegria” & Sima Bina “ahuje man”
For more, visit their website at http://www.cyminology.de.